Thomas Hunt Morgan

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Morgan was an American evolutionary biologist, geneticist, and embryologist. His early interest in natural history led to a B.S. in zoology. His postgraduate studies at the newly created Hopkins University sparked an interest in morphology. A Bryn Mawr College graduate, his significant contributions were done at Columbia University. He experimented with ‘Drosophila melanogaster’ (fruit fly) to uncover heritable mutations. It took him years of labor to not only reconcile Mendel’s theories with the Boveri–Sutton chromosomal theory, but to produce solid evidence for it. Unlike Galileo and Newton, his discovery of the chromosomal theory paved the way for additional research. His discoveries into the chromosome’s involvement in inheritance earned him the Physiology Nobel Prize.

Early Childhood of Thomas Hunt Morgan

Thomas Hunt Morgan was born in 1866 in Lexington, Kentucky, into a powerful Southern plantation family. His father was a Confederate officer. His mother was a Marylander.
After the Civil War, the Morgans lost some civil and property rights due to their Confederate involvement. As a result, the family had to struggle.

Thomas spent a lot of time collecting birds’ eggs and fossils in Kentucky and Maryland. It sparked a passion in natural history that lasted until his death.
Morgan entered the College of Kentucky’s preparatory program in 1880. In 1882, he was admitted to the Main College. He studied physics and natural history as an undergraduate.

In 1886, he earned a B.S. in zoology as valedictorian. John Hopkins University in Baltimore, followed by a summer at the Marine Biology School at Annisquam, Massachusetts.
At Hopkins, he focused in morphology, studying under William Keith Brooks. He earned his M.S. from the State College of Kentucky in 1888, after two years with Brooks at Hopkins.

Morgan chose marine spiders for his PhD research and obtained it from Hopkins University in 1890. Then he did his postdoctoral at the same institute on a Bruce fellowship. It enabled him to conduct studies in Bahamas, Jamaica, and Naples.

A Career of Thomas Hunt Morgan

Hunt, T. In 1891, Morgan was named Associate Professor of Biology at Bryn Mawr College. He mostly taught morphological subjects there.
He was a competent teacher but preferred research. During his initial years at the College, he studied sea acorns, ascidian worms, and frogs.

In 1894, he took a year off to undertake research at the Stazione Zoologica in Naples. There he learned about the Entwicklungsmechanik School of experimental biology and studied ctenophore embryology.
A full professor since 1895. He now worked on larval regeneration and development, separating external and internal causes. ‘The Development of the Frog’s Egg’ was published in 1897.

He then studied the ability of tadpoles, fish, and earthworms to regenerate. His discoveries were published in 1901 as ‘Regeneration’.
He started researching sex determination some time ago. In his third book, ‘Evolution and Adaptation,’ published in 1903, he acknowledged evolution but disputed Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

Morgan became Professor of Experimental Zoology at Columbia University in 1904. His studies concentrated on heredity and evolution, seeking to experimentally establish De Vries’ mutation theory. But he doubted Mendel’s rules of inheritance and the chromosomal theory of sex determination.

‘Drosophila melanogaster’ began in 1908. (common fruit fly). So he started by breeding these flies to find heritable mutations. Morgan found a male fly with white eyes among its red eyed wild sisters in 1910.
It was then that he discovered that men always had white eyes while females had crimson eyes. Despite certain exceptions, the experiment revealed the first link between inherited traits and chromosomes.

In reality, Morgan’s 1909 and 1910 studies expressed his conviction that chromosomes might influence sex determination. But he had not yet concluded that auxiliary chromosome X determined sex.
In 1911, he reported in Science Magazine that some qualities were sex-linked and likely carried on one of the sex chromosomes. He surmised that the other genes were equally chromosomally arranged.

Morgan and his team gathered hundreds of mutant flies to explore their intricate inheritance patterns. In 1913, he released ‘Heredity and Sex’, his fifth work.
Slowly, he came to accept Mendel’s laws while continuing his fruit fly studies. In 1915, he proved the Boveri–Sutton chromosomal hypothesis of inheritance with Mendel’s theories.

In 1915, Morgan co-authored a seminal work with Sturtevant, Bridges, and Muller. The book is titled ‘The Mechanism of Mendelian Heredity’ and is regarded a classic in modern genetics.
Morgan then focused on embryology.

He urged his students to experiment in all areas of biology.
Morgan was invited to create a school of biology at MIT in 1927. Despite his advanced age, he happily accepted the offer and moved to California in 1928.

A professor and chairman emeritus, Morgan departed from the institute in 1942. A world-renowned research institution in experimental embryology, genetics and evolution, physiology and biochemistry. He founded the Corona del Mar Marine Laboratory.
He held several high posts concurrently. Morgan was the President of the National Academy of Sciences from 1927 to 1931. In 1930, he became the AAAS’s President.

Grandiose of Thomas Hunt Morgan

Morgan is most known for his work on chromosomal theory. His work with ‘Drosophila melanogaster’ gave irrefutable proof for the inheritance theory and made it popular among biologists. His work with Drosophila made it a commonly used model organism.

Honors and Honours

Morgan won the Physiology and Medicine Nobel Prize in 1933 “for his findings about the significance of the chromosome in inheritance”.
His work in zoology, especially his studies on heredity and cytology, earned him the Royal Society’s Darwin Medal in 1924.

It was granted in 1939 “for his establishment of the modern science of genetics which has changed our understanding of not only heredity, but the method and nature of evolution.”

Morgan became a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in 1919.
John Hopkins University awarded him an honorary LL.D. and the University of Kentucky a PhD.

Personal Legacy of Thomas Hunt Morgan

Thomas Hunt Morgan married Lilian Vaughan Sampson, an experimental biologist who helped him explore ‘Drosophila melanogaster’ in 1904. She discovered attached-X chromosomes and ring chromosomes.

When they met, she was a Bryn Mawr student and he was an associate professor. Lillian gave up her scientific job to raise their four children, one son and three daughters.
Isabel Merrick Morgan, one of his daughters, became a virologist at Johns Hopkins. Her work on an experimental polio vaccine for monkeys made her famous.

Morgan had a persistent duodenal ulcer. At 79 years old, he had a massive heart attack in 1945. His artery broke on December 4, 1945.
Sweden honored him with a stamp in 1989. His name is featured on the University of Kentucky’s Thomas Hunt Morgan School of Biological Sciences.

Estimated Net Worth

The estimated net worth of Thomas Hunt Morgan is unknown.